The “Straw-man” syndrome and the state of Good Debate!

Here are other pages of Interest about skepticism and or Atheism!

Atheism’s Fall:The Demise of the Deniers of the Faith!

Honest Answers to Skeptical Questioning: The Hard Facts!

Evidence & Answers: Do you believe Truth or Excuses?

Christian Responses to Atheistic Attacks!

What is Atheism? Is it valid to take their word for ’God’?

The real evidence FOR God AGAINST Evolution and Atheism!

If God created everything? Then who created Evil?…Hmmmmmm!

The “Straw-man” syndrome and the state of Good Debate!

Religion SUCKS on so many levels! Atheist’s & Skeptic’s have a valid Point!

Spiritual Gifts HAVE NOT CEASED! The teaching of Cessationism is the Churches SHAME!

The TRUTH about Bodily Healing and God’s ONCE FOR ALL Atonement!

Honest Answers to Skeptical Questioning! Suprised & Silenced By God’s Healing Power!

The Steps to a Brain Washed Mind!!!

Today Mind control or brainwashing in academia is commonly referred to as coercive persuasion, coercive psychological systems or coercive influence.The short description below comes from Dr. Margaret Singer professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley the acknowledged leading authority in the world on mind control and cults. This document, in substance, was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court as an educational Appendix on coercive psychological systems in the case Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology 89-1367 and 89-1361. The Wollersheim case was being considered related to issues involving abuse in this area. Coercion is defined as, “to restrain or constrain by force…” Legally it often implies the use of PHYSICAL FORCE or physical or legal threat. This traditional concept of coercion is far better understood than the technological concepts of “coercive persuasion” which are effective restraining, impairing, or compelling through the gradual application of PSYCHOLOGICAL FORCES. A coercive persuasion program is a behavioral change technology applied to cause the “learning” and “adoption” of a set of behaviors or an ideology under certain conditions. It is distinguished from other forms of benign social learning or peaceful persuasion by the conditions under which it is conducted and by the techniques of environmental and interpersonal manipulation employed to suppress particular behaviors and to train others. Over time, coercive persuasion, a psychological force akin in some ways to our legal concepts of undue influence, can be even MORE effective than pain, torture, drugs, and use of physical force and legal threats. The Korean War “Manchurian Candidate” misconception of the need for suggestibility-increasing drugs, and physical pain and torture, to effect thought reform, is generally associated with the old concepts and models of brainwashing. Today, they are not necessary for a coercive persuasion program to be effective. With drugs, physical pain, torture, or even a physically coercive threat, you can often temporarily make someone do something against their will. You can even make them do something they hate or they really did not like or want to do at the time. They do it, but their attitude is not changed. This is much different and far less devastating than that which you are able to achieve with the improvements of coercive persuasion. With coercive persuasion you can change people’s attitudes without their knowledge and volition. You can create new “attitudes” where they will do things willingly which they formerly may have detested, things which previously only torture, physical pain, or drugs could have coerced them to do. The advances in the extreme anxiety and emotional stress production technologies found in coercive persuasion supersede old style coercion that focuses on pain, torture, drugs, or threat in that these older systems do not change attitude so that subjects follow orders “willingly.” Coercive persuasion changes both attitude AND behavior, not JUST behavior.
Coercive persuasion or thought reform as it is sometimes known, is best understood as a coordinated system of graduated coercive influence and behavior control designed to deceptively and surreptitiously manipulate and influence individuals, usually in a group setting, in order for the originators of the program to profit in some way, normally financially or politically.
The essential strategy used by those operating such programs is to systematically select, sequence and coordinate numerous coercive persuasion tactics over CONTINUOUS PERIODS OF TIME. There are seven main tactic types found in various combinations in a coercive persuasion program. A coercive persuasion program can still be quite effective without the presence of ALL seven of these tactic types. TACTIC 1. The individual is prepared for thought reform through increased suggestibility and/or “softening up,” specifically through hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as: A. Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills; B. Excessive exact repetition of routine activities; C. Decreased sleep; D. Nutritional restriction. TACTIC 2. Using rewards and punishments, efforts are made to establish considerable control over a person’s social environment, time, and sources of social support. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered. (In the forerunner to coercive persuasion, brainwashing, this was rather easy to achieve through simple imprisonment.) TACTIC 3. Disconfirming information and nonsupporting opinions are prohibited in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An “in-group” language is usually constructed. TACTIC 4. Frequent and intense attempts are made to cause a person to re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject’s basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control, and defense mechanisms as well as getting them to reinterpret their life’s history, and adopt a new version of causality.
TACTIC 5. Intense and frequent attempts are made to undermine a person’s confidence in himself and his judgment, creating a sense of powerlessness.
TACTIC 6. Nonphysical punishments are used such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques for creating strong aversive emotional arousals, etc. TACTIC 7. Certain secular psychological threats [force] are used or are present: That failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief, or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequence, (e.g. physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.). Another set of criteria has to do with defining other common elements of mind control systems. If most of Robert Jay Lifton’s eight point model of thought reform is being used in a cultic organization, it is most likely a dangerous and destructive cult. These eight points follow: Robert Jay Lifton’s Eight Point Model of Thought Reform
1. ENVIRONMENT CONTROL. Limitation of many/all forms of communication with those outside the group. Books, magazines, letters and visits with friends and family are taboo. “Come out and be separate!” 2. MYSTICAL MANIPULATION. The potential convert to the group becomes convinced of the higher purpose and special calling of the group through a profound encounter / experience, for example, through an alleged miracle or prophetic word of those in the group. 3. DEMAND FOR PURITY. An explicit goal of the group is to bring about some kind of change, whether it be on a global, social, or personal level. “Perfection is possible if one stays with the group and is committed.” 4. CULT OF CONFESSION. The unhealthy practice of self disclosure to members in the group. Often in the context of a public gathering in the group, admitting past sins and imperfections, even doubts about the group and critical thoughts about the integrity of the leaders. 5. SACRED SCIENCE. The group’s perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required. 6. LOADED LANGUAGE. A new vocabulary emerges within the context of the group. Group members “think” within the very abstract
and narrow parameters of the group’s doctrine. The terminology sufficiently stops members from thinking critically by reinforcing a “black and white” mentality. Loaded terms and clichés prejudice thinking. 7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON. Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine. 8. DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE. Salvation is possible only in the group. Those who leave the group are doomed.
Programs identified with the above-listed seven tactics have in common the elements of attempting to greatly modify a person’s self-concept, perceptions of reality, and interpersonal relations. When successful in inducing these changes, coercive thought reform programs also, among other things, create the potential forces necessary for exercising undue influence over a person’s independent decision-making ability, and even for turning the individual into a deployable agent for the organization’s benefit without the individual’s meaningful knowledge or consent. Coercive persuasion programs are effective because individuals experiencing the deliberately planned severe stresses they generate can only reduce the pressures by accepting the system or adopting the behaviors being promulgated by the purveyors of the coercion program. The relationship between the person and the coercive persuasion tactics are DYNAMIC in that while the force of the pressures, rewards, and punishments brought to bear on the person are considerable, they do not lead to a stable, meaningfully SELF-CHOSEN reorganization of beliefs or attitudes. Rather, they lead to a sort of coerced compliance and a situationally required elaborate rationalization, for the new conduct. Once again, in order to maintain the new attitudes or “decisions,” sustain the rationalization, and continue to unduly influence a person’s behavior over time, coercive tactics must be more or less CONTINUOUSLY applied. A fiery, “hell and damnation” guilt-ridden sermon from the pulpit or several hours with a high-pressure salesman or other single instances of the so-called peaceful persuasions do not constitute the “necessary chords and orchestration” of a SEQUENCED, continuous, COORDINATED, and carefully selected PROGRAM of surreptitious coercion, as found in a comprehensive program of “coercive persuasion.” Truly peaceful religious persuasion practices would never attempt to force, compel and dominate the free wills or minds of its members through coercive behavioral techniques or covert hypnotism. They would have no difficulty coexisting peacefully with U.S. laws meant to protect the public from such practices. Looking like peaceful persuasion is precisely what makes coercive persuasion less likely to attract attention or to mobilize opposition. It is also part of what makes it such a devastating control technology. Victims of coercive persuasion have: no signs of physical abuse, convincing rationalizations for the radical or abrupt changes in their behavior, a convincing “sincerity, and they have been changed so gradually that they don’t oppose it because they usually aren’t even aware of it. Deciding if coercive persuasion was used requires case-by-case careful analysis of all the influence techniques used and how they were applied. By focusing on the medium of delivery and process used, not the message, and on the critical differences, not the coincidental similarities, which system was used becomes clear. The Influence Continuum helps make the difference between peaceful persuasion and coercive persuasion easier to distinguish.
Not all tactics used in a coercive persuasion type environment will always be coercive. Some tactics of an innocuous or cloaking nature will be mixed in.
Not all individuals exposed to coercive persuasion or thought reform programs are effectively coerced into becoming participants.
How individual suggestibility, psychological and physiological strengths, weakness, and differences react with the degree of severity, continuity, and comprehensiveness in which the various tactics and content of a coercive persuasion program are applied, determine the program’s effectiveness and/or the degree of severity of damage caused to its victims.
For example, in United States v. Lee 455 U.S. 252, 257-258 (1982), the California Supreme Court found that
“when a person is subjected to coercive persuasion without his knowledge or consent… [he may] develop serious and sometimes irreversible physical and psychiatric disorders, up to and including schizophrenia, self-mutilation, and suicide.”
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA OF A COERCIVE PERSUASION PROGRAM? A). Determine if the subject individual held enough knowledge and volitional capacity to make the decision to change his or her ideas or beliefs.
B). Determine whether that individual did, in fact, adopt, affirm, or reject those ideas or beliefs on his own. C). Then, if necessary, all that should be examined is the behavioral processes used, not ideological content. One needs to examine only the behavioral processes used in their “conversion.” Each alleged coercive persuasion situation should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The characteristics of coercive persuasion programs are severe, well-understood, and they are not accidental.
COERCIVE PERSUASION IS NOT VOLUNTARY, PEACEFUL, RELIGIOUS PRACTICE OR CENTRAL TO ANY BONA FIDE RELIGION. Coercive persuasion is not a religious practice, it is a control technology. It is not a belief or ideology, it is a technological process. As a PROCESS, it can be examined by experts on its technology COMPLETELY SEPARATE from any idea or belief content, similar to examining the technical process of hypnotic induction distinct from the meaning or value of the post-hypnotic suggestions. Examining PROCESSES in this manner can not violate First Amendment religious protections. Coercive persuasion is antithetical to the First Amendment. It is the unfair manipulation of other’s biological and psychological weaknesses and susceptibilities. It is a psychological FORCE technology, not of a free society, but of a criminal or totalitarian society. It is certainly not a spiritual or religious technology. Any organization using coercive persuasion on its members as a CENTRAL practice that also claims to be a religion is turning the SANCTUARY of the First Amendment into a fortress for psychological assault. It is a contradiction of terms and should be “disestablished.”
Coercive persuasion is a subtle, compelling psychological force which attacks an even more fundamental and important freedom than our “freedom of religion.” ITS REPREHENSIBILITY AND DANGER IS THAT IT ATTACKS OUR SELF-DETERMINISM AND FREE WILL, OUR MOST FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS.

What is a Straw-man argument?

A straw man argument is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “set up a straw man” or “set up a straw-man argument” is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact a misleading fallacy, because the opponent’s actual argument has not been refuted.
In philosophy, a logical fallacy or a formal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is always or at least most commonly wrong. This is due to a flaw in the structure of the argument (Can God make a Rock to BIG FOR HIM TO LIFT? ) which renders the argument invalid. A formal fallacy is contrasted with an informal fallacy, which has a valid logical form ( Why would God DO THIS IF HE KNEW… THE ASSUMPTION BEING THAT GOD DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING IF HE DOES THAT THING WE CAN’T UNDERSTAND! ), but is false due to one or more of its premises being false. We know God knows what he’s doing ELSE he would not be God,therefore the problem RESTS in our FALLIBILITY AND LACK OF UNDERSTANDING HIS PURPOSES !

The term fallacy is often used more generally to mean an argument which is problematic for any reason, whether it be a formal or an informal fallacy.
The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument’s premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument ,but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

Recognizing fallacies in everyday arguments may be difficult since arguments are often embedded in rhetorical patterns that obscure the logical connections between statements. Informal fallacies may also exploit the emotions or intellectual or psychological weaknesses of the audience. Having the capability to recognize fallacies in arguments is one way to reduce the likelihood of such occurrences.
A different approach to understanding and classifying fallacies is provided by argumentation theory. In this approach, an argument is regarded as an interactive protocol between individuals which attempts to resolve a disagreement. The protocol is regulated by certain rules of interaction and violations of these rules are fallacies. Many of the fallacies in the list below are best understood as being fallacies in this sense.
These fallacies are used in many forms of modern communication where the intention is to influence behavior and change beliefs.
Examples in the mass media today include but are not limited to propaganda, advertisements, politics, and opinion news shows.
Its name is derived from the practice of using straw men in combat training. In such training, a scarecrow is made in the image of the enemy with the single intent of attacking it. It is occasionally called a straw dog fallacy, scarecrow argument, or wooden dummy argument.

One can set up a straw man in the following ways:

Present a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position, refute it, and pretend that the opponent’s actual position has been refuted. THIS IS JUST WHAT “HERESY HUNTERS” IN THE CHURCH DO AGAINST WHAT “THEY THINK IS NOT ORTHODOX” TO THEIR EXPERIENCE!
Quote an opponent’s words out of context — i.e., choose quotations that are not representative of the opponent’s actual intentions.


Present someone who defends a position poorly as the defender, refute that person’s arguments, and pretend that every upholder of that position, and thus the position itself, has been defeated.

Invent a fictitious persona with actions or beliefs that are criticized, and pretend that the person represents a group of whom the speaker is critical.

Oversimplify a person’s argument into a simple analogy, which can then be attacked.
Some logic textbooks define the straw man fallacy only as a misrepresented argument. It is now common, however, to use the term to refer to all of these tactics. The straw-man technique is also used as a form of media manipulation.

However, carefully presenting and refuting a weakened form of an opponent’s argument is not always itself a fallacy.
Instead, it restricts the scope of the opponent’s argument, either to where the argument is no longer relevant or as a step of a proof by exhaustion also known as proof by cases or the brute force method, is a method of mathematical proof in which the statement to be proved is split into a finite number of cases, and each case is proved separately.
A proof by exhaustion contains two stages:

A proof that the cases are exhaustive; i.e., that each instance of the statement to be proved matches the conditions of (at least) one of the cases.

A proof of each of the cases.

The real dilemma is that this “straw-man theology” becomes the Lost persons “god for all seasons” being used INSTEAD OF PURE LOGIC OR EVEN COMMON SENSE to face the questions of life,and it becomes a STALE-MATE BETWEEN THEM & GOD over who can answer their questions EXACTLY AS THEY SEE FIT!

A straw-man is an object, document, person, or argument that temporarily stands in for and is intended to be “knocked down” by something more substantial. We set up these things because we can’t DEAL with real.. in your face issues about ETERNITY so we set up false arguments to defeat, to feel better about our own mis-understandings.

“Straw man” is one of the best-named fallacies, because it is memorable and vividly illustrates the nature of the fallacy. Imagine a fight in which one of the combatants sets up a man of straw, attacks it, then proclaims victory. All the while, the real opponent stands by untouched.

As the “straw man” metaphor suggests, the counterfeit position attacked in a Straw Man argument is typically weaker than the opponent’s actual position, just as a straw man is easier to defeat than a flesh-and-blood one. Of course, this is no accident, but is part of what makes the fallacy tempting to commit, especially to a desperate debater who is losing an argument.
Thus, it is no surprise that arguers seldom misstated their opponent’s position so as to make it stronger. Of course, if there is an obvious way to make a debating opponent’s position stronger, then one is up against an incompetent debater. Debaters usually try to take the strongest position they can, so that any change is likely to be for the worse. However, attacking a logically stronger position than that taken by the opponent is a sign of strength, whereas attacking a straw man is a sign of weakness.


(Surprisingly common). Pro-choice boosters claiming that pro-lifers “want” women to be raped and impregnated, or enslaved in the home, or killed by back-alley procedures.

Hints that a certain candidate “wants” a certain Iraqi dictator to be back in power. That is: If you are against my war which had effect X [which is the one good thing among 1000s of bad things], then you must be against X.

People who want to lower taxes must be against the poor, since the tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
People against unions are against the working class. People who hate rap “music” hate black people. People who hate manipulations of the labor supply must hate job-seeking immigrants. Fits the pattern: “Practice X is associated with people Y. If you are against X, then you are against Y.” Common, common, common.
Statements of the form, “The greatest president was Cal Coolidge”, being refuted by, “Oh, right, so you’re against the civil rights movement.” The pattern is, “X was not associated with Y, thus if you are for X, then you are against Y.”
If you are to make a point then make sure your point is a valid point and not one of these silly arguments with a simple “Straw-man EXIT”for your benefit,it begs for help and reveals ignorance of the subject!


A.S.A. Jones

I would like to make a distinction between skeptics and rabid, drooling anti-Christian intellectuals. Ordinary skeptics aren’t driven to skepticism by a hatred of Christianity. There are many atheists who sincerely don’t believe in the existence of god for a variety of reasons. Some have even expressed the desire to believe in that which they honestly can’t intellectually accept. When a skeptic, who doesn’t have an axe to grind, sees sense in your argument, he will acknowledge it. When an anti-Christian intellectual sees sense in your argument, he’ll do anything he can to shut you up, including making threats and following through with them. That said, the term ‘Skeptic’, as it appears in this essay, refers to the anti-Christian intellectual.

Conversely, there are Christians who desire no real intellectual exchange but who are motivated to ‘debate’ by the prospect of man-handling their beliefs into their opponent’s minds. Throwing scriptures at people who don’t believe in God is not only illogical, it is ineffective.
Condemning people who don’t believe in hell to hell, is not only illogical and ineffective, it’s also hypocritical because the Bible has made it very clear that this type of judgment is reserved for God.
Just like their skeptic counterparts, Christians, who resort to these tactics, thwart attempts for real understanding to take place. In this manner, the tactics described in the remainder of this essay also apply to Christians fitting the previous description.

When I debated as a skeptic, I had no desire to learn from Christians. My only purpose was to try and show them how illogical and absurd their belief in God was. It didn’t matter if their arguments made sense. My arguments made sense, too! I was on a mission to destroy faith in God because I perceived Christianity as a direct threat to my individual rights and freedom. I thought that if enough Christians were elected in our government, it would only be a matter of time before the legal system would make us slaves to the morality of the Judeo-Christian religion.
This hokey ‘god’ was going to infringe upon my rights to screw with other consenting adults outside of marriage! It was going to force women to carry their babies to term! It was going to demand that I wake up every Sunday morning and attend church, and if I refused, no respectable business in town would have me as an employee. I wasn’t interested in any TRUTH!
If there was even the smallest possibility that truth would interfere with my all out war against Jesus Christ & Company, I did not want to hear it. I wanted to destroy the enemy.


My goal in debate was to make the intelligent Christians look stupid. The stupid Christians didn’t need my help, but there were some who were smart enough to be an encouragement to others and this really irked me. Most of the time, I didn’t have to find real problems with their arguments; I just found ways to psychologically undermine their audience’s confidence in the Christian who was presenting those arguments.
While I couldn’t dissuade the superior Christian thinker from his well thought out belief, his audience was fair game.

If it is done skillfully, intellectual intimidation and ridicule can generate an uneven psychological playing field. Politeness can be mistaken for submissiveness when it takes place in an atmosphere of subtle (or not so subtle!) condescension and this can then have the effect of making another’s argument APPEAR weak, not that it actually is.
I created this illusion by taking advantage of the stigma of hypocrisy that Christians try to avoid. Not many Christians were willing to stoop as low as me, but when they did, I quickly lost the psychological edge. When both participants do an equally good job of discrediting the thinking of the other, the audience is forced to examine the argument itself. In light of this, I ask Christians to not be too critical of their brothers or sisters who adopt the ‘tit for tat’ method of debate. It could very well be that they are not speaking out from mean-spiritedness, but from recognizing the need of an even playing field. Proverbs 26:4-5 states, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Sometimes, an arrogant fool needs to be ridiculed and belittled in order to see how ridiculous and obnoxious he is.
Of course, when my opponent would do this, I would jump all over them for being a poor representation of Jesus and I was overjoyed when his own flock would do the same!

The hardcore skeptics know this game of audience manipulation and that’s why they post victorious titles to any argument, regardless of outcome. To declare victory is to create the appearance of having actually won. If your newspaper accurately reported the news but slanted the headlines, it could easily deceive the casual browser who didn’t take time to read the entire article. Pay no attention to declarations of victory; focus on the actual arguments.


You may find yourself locked in debate with a skeptic and know that there is something about his argument that doesn’t fit, despite his references to logic.
In other words, it will sound as if this fellow knows all about logic yet has come up with a conclusion that is completely washed of any common sense. Usually, this person is either being stupid or deceitful.

There’s an old adage that states, “You can’t kid a Kidder.” In debate, you can’t deceive a deceiver! If you are seriously considering making debate a hobby, I suggest Nicholas Capaldi’s “The Art of Deception” as a very good introduction.

The real fun of the game begins at a level where both participants have some knowledge of both subject matter and logic. Mr. Owl shall now prove to you that your God does NOT exist!

*God is ‘giving’ punishment or wrath in the following arguments:


1. God is an all-just judge, giving to each exactly what they deserve, no more and no less.

2. God is an all-merciful judge, giving to each less than what they deserve.

3. God can’t give to each exactly what they deserve while at the same time giving them less than what they deserve.

4. Therefore, your God violates the law of non-contradiction and can’t exist!


I shall now prove to you that my God isn’t violating the law of non-contradiction. Note that I did not say that I shall prove that my God exists.

1.The nature of my God is described in the Bible.

2. The Bible never states explicitly or implicitly that my God is an ‘all-just judge’ or an ‘all-merciful’ judge.

3. Therefore, the God you have disproved is not my God.

Now you can see how important it is to know your bible inside and out! God is described as both merciful and just but never with the word ‘all’ attached; there are no scriptures that say things like, “God is an all just-judge all the time”. Even if the word ‘all’ were to be present, this is a common literary device known as a hyperbole and it is used for effect, not accuracy. However, the hyper-analytical skeptic has to forget any college reading skills he may have had and ignore these devices so that he can pretend that the bible doesn’t make sense when he encounters such things as metaphor, simile, or hyperbole. This is why I refer to debate as a card trick with words! If there was a statement that defined God as ‘all-just’, the skeptic tries to enforce a rigid literalist INTERPRETATION upon the text that will allow him to use logic in demonstrating that such a statement would be to the exclusion of God exhibiting mercy. When the skeptic adds ‘all’ to the description, he is stacking the deck and then wants you to be astounded when he pulls out all 5 aces. Let’s continue with our game:


1. God’s nature is described as both just AND merciful.

2. Therefore, God is just to some – that is to say He gives some exactly what they deserve.

3. Therefore, God is merciful to some – that is to say He gives them less than what they deserve.

4. While God can’t logically treat the same person at the same time in a manner that contradicts, He can certainly treat different people differently without violating the law of non-contradiction.


1. God is immutable – the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Therefore, God can’t change.

2. Sometimes God acts as a merciful judge.

3. Sometimes God acts as a just judge.

4. Therefore, God changes.

5. Therefore God violates his own property of immutability and cannot exist!


1. God is immutable inasmuch as His NATURE never changes.

2. God’s nature is described in the bible as ALTERNATING between being both a just judge and a merciful judge.

3. Therefore, when God acts either mercifully or justly, he is acting according to His nature.

4. If God is acting according to His nature, He is not changing His nature.

A. example

1. Charlie will never change his nature.

2. It is Charlie’s nature to be both violent and romantic.

3. Charlie comes home from work, slaps his wife around and then buys her roses.

4. Still the same old Charlie!

Now, if Charlie one day decided to never do violence again, he would indeed be guilty of changing his nature. Likewise, if Charlie never treated his wife in a romantic manner, he would be changing his nature. However, it is Charlie’s nature to be BOTH violent and romantic.

I would also like to note that ‘immutability’ is only mentioned in the bible twice, in Hebrews 6: 17-18, and in no way can it be taken to mean that God’s nature prohibits Him from being both merciful and just.


These descriptions of your God being an immutable, all-just and all-merciful God come from YOUR theologians!


Frankly, I don’t care where these descriptions come from. If they don’t describe God in the manner in which the Bible describes Him, I’d say that’s a good reason not to listen to these theologians who say such stupid things.

We find that MR. OWL has just constructed a straw man – a bogus representation – and then burned it down. He didn’t disprove our God; He created a distortion of our God, slapped the ‘Yahweh’ label on it, and then disproved the distortion.


Fine. I didn’t disprove your God’s existence. I disproved His fairness! Your God is not good!

1. To be just, one must give to another exactly what that individual deserves to get, no more and no less.

2. To be fair, one must treat everyone equally.

3. To be merciful is to give an individual more than what they deserve to get (in reward) or less than what they deserve to get (in punishment).

4. Being merciful is therefore unjust.

5. Unless everyone can be treated with the same degree of mercy or kindness, to be merciful or kind to any one person is to be unfair.


Now we finally get down to opinions of the heart. Mr. Owl seems to think that treating some people with mercy is unfair and therefore not good. This subject is addressed in Matthew 20:1-16, in the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

1. Two people are guilty to the same degree.

2. One person is sentenced justly; he gets exactly what he deserves.

3. The other person is sentenced mercifully; he gets less than what he deserves.

Is this fair? Of course not. Is this good? It all depends on the heart, not the logic in the head of the person making the value decision.

If you were the person who is being judged justly, if you had any love for the other person who was judged mercifully, you would rejoice that this person received a more lenient sentence. If your heart was good, you would see the unfairness but recognize the goodness of the judge out of the love you have for your brother. If you have no love for your brother, you would only see the unfairness and your bitterness over his lenient sentence would cause you to see the mercy in the judgment as bad.

If you are the person who was granted a lenient sentence, if you had any love for the person who was sentenced justly, you may experience guilt over your lighter sentence but even though the judgment was unfair, justice is being served because the other person is getting exactly what they deserve.

Justice without mercy leads a society to brutal self-righteousness. Mercy without justice leads a society to lawlessness. Life isn’t supposed to be fair!

As a side note, this encounter with Mr. Owl was based on a real life debate with a professor of philosophy! What does this prove? Well… we’ve heard the saying, ‘Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach.’ Let’s analyze this in relation to Mr. Owl!

1. Those who can do ‘x’, do ‘x’.

2.Those who cannot do ‘x’, teach ‘x’.

3. Philosophy is a subject that teaches students how to think.

4. Those who can think, don’t teach it.

5. Therefore, Mr. Owl, who can’t think logically, is attempting to teach children what he himself is incapable of doing.

Is it any wonder our educational system has failed us??? For those of you who will feel inclined to e-mail me on the validity of the first two premises in the above argument, I suggest that you keep your two cents and purchase a sense of humor.


Skeptics enjoy asking questions, but they aren’t really interested in hearing answers. They would like to forget that the Bible was written 2000 years ago and in a culture very different from our own because it gives them the advantage in twisting scripture. When a Christian apologist tries to explain biblical passages within their cultural context, skeptics will accuse them of presenting ‘couldabeens’. This type of ignorance, and the ludicrousness that follows it, can only be fully appreciated when one is aware of the culture that is being discussed. Take the following, for example:

RABID SKEPTIC: I say, there, Big Gun Apologist. There’s a fella I talk to on the Internet who must be stupider than me! He can’t even spell worth a lick. Always making mistakes like ‘judgement’ and ‘realise’ and ‘humour’.

BIG GUN APOLOGIST: It isn’t that he’s illiterate, RABID. He’s probably from England. Those spellings are correct British variations.

RABID SKEPTIC: Oh, yeah, yeah, he MAY be from England but he’s still stupid! He tells me he drives his car on the wrong side of the road!

BIG GUN APOLOGIST: Um…In England, the wrong side of the road is the right side of the road…

RABID SKEPTIC: Say what? Now you aren’t making any sense at all, ya big Jesus Freak! This fella’s a moron! A complete fool! He rides on the roof of the bus for crying out sakes!

BIG GUN APOLOGIST: But Rabid, the buses in England have two tiers. You misunderstood what he was saying.

RABID SKEPTIC: Oh, go on with your ridiculous excuses for him, I still say he’s a bigger fool than me!



Debate is a skill, like dancing. Its outcome isn’t necessarily based on the strength of one’s argument, but the skill of the one who is presenting that argument. More about presentation than a quest for truth, debate becomes a matter of positioning; the participant who knows how to assume the lead, can waltz his opponent across the dance floor. If after a few dances, you find that you are continually tripping over yourself, you may just have to admit that you don’t have the grace that it takes to be a good dancer. Your inability to defend your position may not be indicative that your position is indefensible.

Actively participating in debate can provide ample motivation to learn more about the subjects of which we speak. There is nothing more exhilarating than being able to intellectually engage in gunfight and shoot your opponent’s argument full of holes. However, all too often, we shoot off our mouths before we have taken the time to load our weapon. Don’t get caught with your hammer back and no bullets in your barrel. Do the research and the reading and the thinking first, before you engage yourself in debate.


I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to any Christians who may have suffered doubt because of my intentional deceit in playing this game for eight years. I couldn’t know what faith in Christ was until I found it for myself. I ask the Kingdom of God to forgive me and I pray that our Lord can take my experience and use it for His good.


Philosophical Skepticism
– a philosophical position:
in which people choose to critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions that they have are actually true, and whether or not one can ever be said to have true knowledge, Or

Scientific Skepticism
– a scientific, or practical, position in which one does not accept the veracity of claims until solid evidence is produced in accordance with the scientific method. The term skeptic is now usually used to mean a person who is taking a critical position in a given situation, usually by employing the principles of Critical Thinking and the scientific method (that is, scientific skepticism) to evaluate the validity of claims and practices. Empirical evidence is important to skeptics as it is possibly the best way to determine the validity of a claim. Critical Thinking, within the framework of skepticism, is the mental process of acquiring information, then evaluating it to reach a logical conclusion or answer. Critical thinking is synonymous with informal logic. Increasingly, educators believe that schools should focus more on critical thinking than on memorization of facts. Cynicism is generally used to refer to somebody who is inclined to disbelieve in human sincerity or virtue: an individual who maintains that human behavior is motivated entirely by self-interest. A modern cynic is typically highly contemptuous of social norms, especially those which serve more of a ritualistic purpose than a practical one, and will tend to dismiss a substantial proportion of popular beliefs and accepted wisdom as “bunk”. The cynic does NOT employ critical thinking to evaluate the validity of claims and practices. Another way to put this is to say that a cynic is clouded by personal bias when examining information, and thus always proves himself correct. i.e.; I knew it was bunk, I told you it was bunk, or just plain – bunk. Skeptics are often confused with, or even denounced as, cynics. The truth, however, is that valid skeptical criticism (as opposed to arbitrary or subjective misgivings for an idea – cynicism) strictly originates from an objective and methodological examination. Here is an excerpt from Bertrand Russell “What makes a free thinker is not his beliefs, but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not he would be unhappy, his thought is not free; but if he holds them because, after Careful Thought, he finds a balance of evidence in their favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.” “Careful Thought” = Skepticism or Critical Thinking; not Cynicism! The task of applying critical thinking to newly found information with the least amount of personal bias is Very Difficult at first. Over time you will continue to find it easier to do so provided that you attempt to exercise critical thinking on a daily basis. Free Thinker – Another Definition “A freethinker is one who thinks freely — one who is prepared to consider any possibility, and who determines which ideas are right or wrong by bringing reason to bear, according to a consistent set of rules such as the scientific method.” SYMPTOMS OF PATHOLOGICAL SKEPTICISM (c)1996 William J. Beaty Many members of the mainstream scientific community react with extreme hostility when presented with certain claims. This can be seen in their emotional responses to current controversies such as UFO abductions, Cold Fusion, cryptozoology, psi, and numerous others (including CREATION & THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.) The scientists react not with pragmatism and a wish to get to the bottom of things, but instead with the same tactics religious groups use to suppress heretics (And the way evolutionists treat Creationists): hostile emotional attacks, circular reasoning, dehumanizing of the ‘enemy’, extreme closed-mindedness, intellectually dishonest reasoning, underhanded debating tactics, negative gossip, and all manner of name-calling and character assassination. Two can play at that game! Therefore, I call their behavior “Pathological Skepticism,” a term I base upon skeptics’ assertion that various unacceptable ideas are “Pathological Science.” Below is a list of the symptoms of pathological skepticism I have encountered, and examples of the irrational reasoning they tend to produce. Belief that theories determine phenomena, rather than the reverse. “The phenomenon you have observed is impossible, crazy stuff. We know of no mechanism which could explain your results, so we have grave suspicions about the accuracy your report. There is no room for your results in modern theory, so they simply cannot exist. You are obviously the victim of errors, hoaxers, or self-delusion. We need not publish your paper, and any attempts at replicating your results would be a waste of time. Your requests for funding are misguided, and should be turned down.” Erecting barriers against new ideas by constantly altering the requirements for acceptance. (A practice called “moving the goalposts.”) “I’ll believe it when ‘X’ happens” (but when it does, this immediately is changed to: “I’ll believe it when ‘Y’ happens.”) Example: “I won’t believe it until major laboratories publish papers in this field. They have? That means nothing! Major labs have been wrong before. I’ll believe it when stores sell products which use the effect. They do? That means nothing, after all, stores sell magic healing pendants and Ouija boards. I’ll believe it when a Nobel Prize winning researcher gets behind that work. One has? Well that means nothing! That person is probably old and dotty like Dr. Pauling and his vitamin-C…” etc. Belief that fundamental concepts in science rarely change, coupled with a “herd following” behavior where the individual changes his/her opinions when colleagues all do, all the while remaining blind to the fact that any opinions had ever changed. “The study of (space flight, endosymbiosis, drill core bacteria, child abuse, cold fusion, etc.) has always been a legitimate pursuit. If scientists ever ridiculed the reported evidence or tried to stop such research, it certainly was not a majority of scientists. It must have been just a few misguided souls, and must have happened in the distant past.” Belief that science is guided by consensus beliefs and majority rule, rather than by evidence. Indulging in behavior which reinforces the negative effects of consensus beliefs while minimizing the impact of any evidence which contradicts those beliefs. “I don’t care how good your evidence is, I won’t believe it until the majority of scientists also find it acceptable. Your evidence cannot be right, because it would mean that hundreds of textbooks and thousands of learned experts are wrong. Adopting a prejudiced stance against a theory or an observed phenomena without first investigating the details, then using this as justification for refusing to investigate the details. “Your ideas are obviously garbage. What, try to replicate your evidence? I wouldn’t soil my hands. And besides, it would be a terrible waste of time and money, since there’s no question about the outcome.” Maintaining an unshakable stance of hostile, intolerant skepticism, and when anyone complains of this, accusing them of paranoid delusion. Remaining blind to scientists’ widespread practice of intellectual suppression of unorthodox findings, and to the practice of “expulsion of heretics” through secret, back-room accusations of deviance or insanity. “You say that no one will listen to your ideas, and now the funding for your other projects is cut off for no reason? And colleagues are secretly passing around a petition demanding that you be removed? If you’re thinking along THOSE lines, then you obviously are delusional and should be seeking professional help.” Ignoring the lessons of history, and therefore opening the way for repeating them again and again. “Scientists of old ridiculed the germ theory, airplanes, space flight, meteors, etc. They were certain that science of the time had everything figured out, and that major new discoveries were no longer possible. Isn’t it good that we researchers of today are much more wise, and such things can no longer happen!” *Denial* of the lessons of history. An inability to admit that science has made serious mistakes in the past. Maintaining a belief that good ideas and discoveries are never accidentally suppressed by closed-mindedness, then revising history to fit this belief. “Throughout history, the *majority* of scientists never ridiculed flying machines, spacecraft, television, continental drift, reports of ball lightning, meteors, sonoluminescence, etc. These discoveries are not examples of so-called ‘paradigm shifts’, they are obvious examples of the slow, steady, forward progress made by science!” Using circular arguments to avoid accepting evidence which supports unusual discoveries, or to prevent publication of this evidence. “I do not have to inspect the evidence because I know it’s wrong. I know it’s wrong because I’ve never seen any positive evidence.” “We will not publish your paper, since these results have not been replicated by any other researchers.We will not publish your paper, since it is merely a replication of work which was done earlier, by other researchers.” Accusing opponents of delusion, lying, or even financial fraud, where no evidence for fraud exists other than the supposed impossibility of evidence being presented. “Don’t trust researchers who study parapsychology. They constantly cheat and lie in order to support their strange worldviews. Very few of them have been caught at it, but it’s not necessary to do so, since any fool can see that the positive evidence for psi can only be created by people who are either disturbed or dishonest.” Unwarranted confidence that the unknown is in the far distance, not staring us in the face. “Your evidence cannot be real because it’s not possible that thousands of researchers could have overlooked it for all these years. If your discovery was real, the scientists who work in that field would already know about it.” Belief that certain fields of science are complete, that scientific revolutions never happen, and that any further progress must occur only in brushing up the details. “Physics is a mature field. Future progress can only lie in increasing the energies of particle accelerators, and in refining the precision of well-known measurements. Your discovery cannot be true, since it would mean we’d have to throw out all our hard- won knowledge about physics.” Excusing the ridicule, trivialization, and the scorn which is directed at ‘maverick’ ideas and at anomalous evidence. Insisting that sneering and derisive emotional attacks constitute a desirable and properly scientific natural selection force. “It is right that new discoveries be made to overcome large barriers. That way only the good ideas will become accepted. If some important discoveries are suppressed in this process, well, that’s just the price we have to pay to defend science against the fast-growing hoards of crackpots who threaten to destroy it.” Justifying any refusal to inspect evidence by claiming a “slippery slope.” Using the necessary judicious allocation of time and funding as a weapon to prevent investigation of unusual, novel, or threatening ideas. “If we take your unlikely discovery seriously, all scientists everywhere will have to accept every other crackpots idea too, and then we’ll waste all of our time checking out crackpots claims.” A blindness to phenomena which do not fit the current belief system, coupled with a denial that beliefs affect perceptions. “Thomas Kuhn’s ‘paradigm shifts’ and sociology’s ‘cognitive dissonance’ obviously do not apply to average, rational scientists. Scientists are objective, so they are not prone to the psychological failings which plague normal humans. Scientists always welcome any data which indicates a need to revise their current knowledge. Their “beliefs” don’t affect their perceptions, scientists don’t have “beliefs”, science is not a religion! A belief that all scientific progress is made by small, safe, obvious steps, that widely-accepted theories are never overturned, and that no new discoveries come from anomalies observed. “All your observations are obviously mistakes. They couldn’t possibly be real, because if they were real, it would mean that major parts of current science are wrong, and we would have to rewrite large portions of we know about physics. This never occurs. Science proceeds by building on earlier works, never by tearing them down. Therefore it is right that we reject evidence which contradicts contemporary theory, and recommend that funding of such research not be continued.” Hiding any evidence of personal past ridicule of ideas which are later proved valid. Profound narcissism; an extreme need to always be right, a fear of having personal errors revealed, and a habit of silently covering up past mistakes. ” X is obviously ridiculous, and its supporters are crack-pots who are giving us a bad name and should be silenced.” But if X is proved true, the assertion suddenly becomes: “Since ‘X’ is obviously true, it follows that…” Belief in the lofty status of modern science but with consequent blindness to, and denial of, its faults. A tendency to view shameful events in the history of modern science as being beneficial, and a lack of any desire to fix contemporary problems. “It was right that Dr. Wegner’s career was wrecked; that he was treated as a crackpot, ridiculed, and died in shame. His evidence for continental drift convinced no one. And besides, he did not propose a mechanism to explain the phenomena.” A belief that Business and the Press have no tendency towards close- mindedness and suppression of novelty, and that their actions are never guided by the publicly-expressed judgment of scientists. “If the Wright Brothers’ claims were true, we would be reading about it in all the papers, and flying-machine companies would be springing up left and right. Neither of these is occurring, therefor the Wright’s claims are obviously a lie and a hoax. Refusing to be swayed when other researchers find evidence supporting unconventional phenomena or theories. If other reputable people change sides and accept the unorthodox view, this is seen as evidence of their gullibility or insanity, not as evidence that perhaps the unconventional view is correct. “I’ll believe it when someone like Dr. P believes it.” But when Dr. P changes sides, this becomes: “Dr. P did some great work in his early years, but then he destroyed his career by getting involved with that irrational crockpot stuff.” Elevating skepticism to a lofty position, yet indulging in hypocrisy and opening the way to pathological thinking by refusing to ever cast a critical, SKEPTICAL eye upon the irrational behavior of scoffers. “Criticizing skeptics is never beneficial. It even represents a danger to science. One should never criticize science, it just gives ammunition to the enemy; it aids the irrational, anti-science hoards who would destroy our fragile edifice.” Belief that modern scientists as a group lack faults, and therefore clinging to any slim justifications in order to ignore the arguments of those who hope to eliminate the flaws in Science. “I think we can safely ignore Thomas Kuhn’s STRUCTURES OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS. Despite his physics training we can see that Kuhn was an outsider to science; he obviously doesn’t have a good grasp on real science. Outsiders never can see things in the proper positive light, it takes a working scientist to see the real situation. Also, he stressed his central themes way too much, so I think we can ignore him as simply being a sensationalist. And besides, if he’s digging up dirt regarding science, then he must have a hidden agenda. I bet we’ll find that he’s a Christian or something, probably a creationist.” Blindness to the widespread existence of the above symptoms. Belief that scientists are inherently objective, and rarely fall victim to these faults. Excusing the frequent appearance of these symptoms as being isolated instances which do not comprise an accumulation of evidence for the common practice of Pathological Skepticism. “This ‘Pathological Skepticism’ does not exist. Kooks and crackpots deserve the hostile mistreatment we give them, but anyone who does similar things to skeptics is terribly misguided. Those who criticize skeptics are a danger to Science itself, and we must stop them.


Logic, Debate and Apologetics
A.S.A. Jones

Both debate and apologetics make use of logic. Logic provides us with a means through which we can determine the truth value of opinions and the arguments that arise from a difference in opinion. Even though both debate and apologetics make use of logic, there is a gross difference between them. Apologetics attempts to explain our faith; its goal is to promote understanding. Discussion is also an attempt to honestly understand another’s point of view while presenting one’s own view. Debate, on the other hand, is designed to promote one’s self. Debate is propaganda. The goal of debate isn’t to determine truth, but to win an argument and win an audience over to your way of thinking. One of the best introductory books about debate that I ever read was titled, “The Art of Deception”, by Nickolas Capaldi. That should give you some insight as to what debate is all about. It can be vicious! All too often, it becomes a study in bad sportsmanship. It’s all about knowing the rules in order to go about breaking them without getting caught. It’s about making other people look foolish and appear stupid in order to win the contest at any cost. It’s probably a compliment, in a way, that a lot of Christians don’t get involved in this type of debate, but when they do, they frequently end up looking like a person caught on the toilet after forgetting to lock the bathroom door. They know that something isn’t right in their opponent’s logic, but they just can’t say what it is for sure. They lose, not knowing why. They are made to feel defeated and puzzled. It isn’t because they lack intelligence, it’s because they aren’t familiar with playing a game of deception. There are any number of techniques that your opponent can use in an attempt to confuse you and make him appear victorious, without actually having a valid point. For instance, this is one of my favorite recipes:

1. Take a general statement and turn it into a ridiculous and exaggerated absolute.
2. Present a false analogy that will allow you to change the topic to something easier to defend.
3. Sprinkle lightly with witty insults.
4. Bake until half done.
5. Gloat.

This is called “Building a straw man, and burning it down”. The purpose of the following demonstration isn’t to make you think that your opposition will never have a solid leg to stand on; many atheists have valid arguments and present their case quite well. Its purpose is to show you, that even though your opponent’s argument may be full of holes and logical fallacies, it can give him the appearance of winning the debate. Consider this conversation, a variation of an old Dilbert gag:

Christian: Genesis 1:29 reads…”I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food…”

Skeptic: That’s absurd. If you ate all of the vegetables and fruits in the whole world all at once your stomach would explode…

Christian: You’re not supposed to eat them all at once…

Skeptic: Let me give you an analogy. If one country is more advanced than another, does it have the right to force the less advanced country to can and package its fruits and vegetables?

Christian: That’s not the same thing.

Skeptic: Aha! So now you agree with me that slavery is wrong!

Christian: No I didn’t!

Skeptic: Oh you didn’t? So you admit then that the Bible promotes slavery?

Christian: It does not!

Skeptic: It says right here in Leviticus 25:47, “You may buy male and female slaves from the nations around you.” If you go against what the Bible says, you’re a hypocrite.

Christian: But that isn’t what it means!

Skeptic: Are you saying that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says? You Christian slave mongers have a lot of nerve coming in here trying to save my soul.

Christian: I wasn’t trying to save your soul!

Skeptic: Oh you weren’t? You mean you don’t even care if I go to Hell??!! What kind of Christian are you, anyway?

When an audience is less informed about the subject that is being debated than those who are debating it, it ends up relying on the presentation of the argument as much as the content when it makes its decision regarding it; in other words, it only listens with one ear! Now the audience will walk away with the distinct impression that you are a slave monger, a hypocrite, and an uncaring person; a person who doesn’t eat his vegetables! This type of debate will not only aggravate you, but it effectively limits your opportunity to discuss anything of importance. You will end up feeding junk food to a person who is spiritually starving, discussing Greek instead of the gospel. When Christianity is attacked or questioned and we attempt to respond with apologetics, frequently we will find ourselves launched into debate instead of a meaningful discussion. When this happens, a Christian needs to be battle savvy in order to present his views with enough intelligence that hopefully will turn the debate back into a dialogue worth having. This example was designed to make you laugh and of course the deception here was blatant. But it’s the same technique that Darrow used in the Scopes trial.

In 1925, it was against the law to teach evolution in the public schools, so the ACLU placed ads in newspapers asking for a science teacher to volunteer to teach evolution in a classroom in order that he be arrested so that the law could be examined in a courtroom and hopefully overturned. John Scopes volunteered as the teacher. The ACLU hired a famous trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, as his defense attorney and William Jennings Bryan, a prominent Presbyterian layman, and three-time Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, volunteered his services as counsel for the State. At some point during the proceedings, Christianity was put on trial in an effort to demonstrate the superiority of evolution as opposed to creationism in answering questions concerning the origins of life. Darrow called for a cross examination of Bryan and the debate that followed made Christian fundamentalism appear absurd, self-contradictory and confused. It affected the entire nation’s attitude concerning religion and science. Because of one man’s inability to defend his religion, all Christian fundamentalists, and Christianity itself, were given a black eye.

Bryan was not an ignoramus. He was intelligent, had authored many books about Christianity and he was a lawyer, but he was not familiar with playing a game of deception that involved his faith. Bryan suffered a fatal heart attack five days after the trial so he had very little opportunity to offer comments from hindsight. But let’s examine a segment of the original transcript of the debate, along with an analysis and more appropriate responses in an effort to expose a card trick with words.

To see exactly what Bryan was up against, and what Darrow was up to, the transcript is available.

Darrow–Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?

Right away, we know that if Bryan answers ‘yes’, he will be asked to defend some incredible and irrelevant points. If he says, ‘no’, then he will be asked how he can decide what is to be taken literally as opposed to figuratively. The former stance will open Bryan to ridicule; the latter may give the impression that Biblical interpretation is so liquid that it can’t hold water!

Bryan–I believe everything in the Bible should be accepted as it is given there. Some of the Bible is given illustratively. For instance: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” I would not insist that man was actually salt, or that he had flesh of salt, but it is used in the sense of salt as saving God’s people

This was a good answer, but Bryan didn’t take a stronger, offensive position. We see that Darrow keeps hold of the ball with his next statement:

Darrow–But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale–or that the whale swallowed Jonah, excuse me please–how do you literally interpret that?

Oh, Krikey! Look at the fangs on that one! See how Darrow is going to make the absurd even more absurd by feigning an error where Jonah swallows the whale! A nasty, dirty, but effective tactic! You have to admire that type of devoutness, even when it comes from the opposition.

Bryan–When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah– it does not say whale.

Bryan is correct when he makes the point that the account of Jonah in Jonah says that he was swallowed by a great fish, but he should have kept his mouth shut, instead of playing right into Darrow’s game. Bryan should have been aware of Jesus referring to the great fish as a whale, in Matthew 12:40, and let Darrow slide, instead of trying to show that he knew the exact phrase used in Jonah in an effort to show that Darrow didn’t. Bryan is guilty here of underestimating his opponent and of not thinking two or three moves ahead. What purpose would it have served for Bryan to bring up this point? At best, Bryan could have specifically named the verse, Jonah 1:17, and corrected Darrow in a more specific manner that wouldn’t have allowed him to get caught in the upcoming Fundy trap: “When I read that a big fish swallowed Jonah, in Jonah 1:17, the term used was ‘fish’, not whale.” At worst, however, this would only provide Darrow with an opportunity to make the allegation that the Bible is filled with contradictions.

Darrow–Doesn’t it? Are you sure?

Look at this! Darrow is now giving Bryan an opportunity to bring up the verse in Matthew. When your opponent asks you a question, such as, “Are you sure?”, it should be an immediate tip-off that he knows something that he thinks you do not. Now is not the time to be humble! Bryan should have been searching his mental banks for that passage in Matthew and spewing it.

Bryan–That is my recollection of it, a big fish; and I believe it; and I believe in a God who can make a whale and can make a man, and make both do what He pleases.

Oh! He misses the hint entirely! He is too anxious to defend the absurdity itself.

Darrow–Mr. Bryan, doesn’t the New Testament say whale?

Bryan–I am not sure. My impression is that it says fish; but it does not make so much difference; I merely called your attention that to where it says fish, it does not say whale.

Darrow–But in the New Testament it says whale, doesn’t it?

Bryan–That may be true; I remember in my own mind what I read about it.

Ouch! Bryan just proved the point of many skeptics who claim to know the Bible better than Christians. Don’t let this happen to you. If you haven’t read the Bible, or studied it, you shouldn’t be attempting to debate it. I’m sure that Bryan knew his Bible, but he didn’t know it to the degree necessary to debate it. Skeptics read the Bible in order to legally pick it apart; Christians read the Bible in order to understand it. If you are going to debate a skeptic, you have to learn how to think like one. Just pretend that you are going to have a fight with your nit-picky, quarrelsome spouse about what the Bible really says. This should generate the right frame of mind.

Darrow–Now, you say, the big fish swallowed Jonah, and he remained- how long–three days, and then he spewed him up on the land. You believe that the big fish was made to swallow Jonah?

O.K., it’s easy to see where the rest of this is going. How could Bryan have turned the tables on Darrow right from the start? Here is how the debate may have gone, had Bryan taken a stronger offensive position:

Darrow–Do you claim that everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted?

Bryan–I believe that the Bible should be literally interpreted in the truth it intends to reveal.

This is a loaded statement, and a very useful one, because it gives a Christian the leverage to get to the meat of any issue without getting eaten alive in the process.

Darrow–But when you read that Jonah swallowed the whale–or that the whale swallowed Jonah, excuse me please–how do you literally interpret that?

Bryan–Is that what you think the story of Jonah is about? The structural anomalies of marine life that would permit the swallowing of a man? If that’s what you think the story of Jonah intends to reveal, I would question your reading comprehension.

Darrow–Do you, or do you not believe a big whale swallowed Jonah?

Bryan–I am saying that whether a person does or doesn’t choose to believe that a whale literally swallowed Jonah is totally irrelevant to the truth being revealed in the story of Jonah. You are missing the truth entirely.

Darrow–What is the truth about Jonah, if not being swallowed by a whale?

Bryan–Thinking that the story of Jonah is about a man being swallowed by a whale is a rather superficial and inadequate summary. It would be the equivalent of saying that the story of Romeo & Juliet is about two disobedient kids who have no respect for their parent’s wishes. While both summaries are true, they both miss the entire point of the stories involved. The story of Jonah is about a man who hears God quite plainly, but tries to escape his duty as God’s prophet because he knows that God’s message will not be well received.

Now the ball is in Bryan’s court. From this point, I can’t speculate how this particular line of discussion would have progressed, but you can see that there is a way to debate that allows you take the lead instead of being jerked around by your opponent.

When you debate a master of deception, you have to be familiar with the tricks of the trade. You have to be able to think 2 or 3 steps ahead of him and you have to be as wise as a serpent, yet gentle as a dove. Put yourself into the character of Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in the ‘Karate Kid’, and you won’t go wrong. When your opponent tries to make a fool out of you, you have to make a fool out of your opponent – just once – but in a very witty way that intimidates him into not trying to make you appear foolish again. Bryan lacked the attitude that is necessary when one debates a vicious opponent and his inability to defend Christian fundamentalism shouldn’t be taken to indicate that fundamentalism is indefensible. However, that was the impression that the public got out of that trial, and not many Christian fundamentalists are doing much to correct it.

I played this game as an atheist for 12 years. Trying to trip Christians up in their faith became my hobby, and I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my past time. I found a whole pack of rabid atheists on the Internet who shared my philosophy and who were intent on destroying Christianity, one believer at a time. Some of them were university professors and scientists. Some of them were college students. Most of them were extremely bright and driven by a hatred of Christianity. We would converge upon Christian forums and turn the places upside down with our relentless arguments and endless attacks. We would attack the false pillars of a Christian’s faith.

I remember one 16-year-old kid who was typical in that he struck up a dialogue with me in an effort to bring me to Christ. He told me the usual personal witness, about how Christ had changed him. I recall receiving a lengthy e-mail from him, describing in loving detail how Jesus had died and suffered on the cross. He wrote about how the nails were placed in his wrists and through his feet and how the weight of his body would tear at these wounds, causing him unbearable pain. He described how crucifixion caused a person to slowly asphyxiate. Then he tried to lay the guilt trip on me, telling me that Christ took this punishment on my behalf and that I owed Jesus my love. I wrote him back a reply: ” You obviously have never read the recent Oxford study concerning ‘Cruci-fiction’. This study, conducted in the archaeological digs of Rome in 1989, conclusively proved that Roman Crucifixion did not take place prior to 350AD. It would have been impossible for Christ, in 33AD to have been executed in such a manner. You have bought into a lie. Christ did not die on a cross. He didn’t die at all because he never lived. You need to grow up, accept the facts, and move on.”

Of course, this was an outright lie that I had manufactured on the spur of the moment. I didn’t even think that this kid would buy it, because it contained an obvious fallacy. If we had copies of the gospels dating to 250 AD and if the original gospels were dated to have been written within 100 AD, then how could they contain accounts of a method of crucifixion that didn’t happen until 250 years later? At the very least, I thought that he would check to see if the reference was real. But he didn’t. He replied, “I can’t be a good person without believing in Christ. All of my friends are into drugs and sex, and I can’t handle that kind of pressure without faith in God”.

I wrote back, “You are giving me a fallacy that is known as an appeal to pity. In other words, you are begging me to allow you to persist in a belief that is false because you can’t handle reality without it.” I didn’t have contact with this kid again until almost a year later. I saw him in an agnostic forum, and he had become one of the most foul-mouthed critics of Christianity.

When I had first met him, this young man was no less born again than anyone making the claim. But the foundation for his faith was built upon the historical evidence for Jesus, and when that evidence was called into doubt, it destroyed his faith. He didn’t love the truth enough to question a lie and he wasn’t familiar with logic, which would have allowed him to spot such a glaring contradiction.

Now you may say that you will just stay away from the Internet and avoid having to deal with this onslaught of anti-Christian badgering . But what do you think happens when people log off of their computers? They don’t stop being outspoken when they go back to the classroom or workplace. Most of the mail that I receive comes from college students who are experiencing intellectual doubt for the first time in their lives. They are bombarded with snide comments and introduced to every conceivable criticism of the Bible, by both their professors and fellow students. We have to face it; We can’t hide from this type of attack and it’s time for Christians to step up and begin equipping ourselves with the tools of intellectualism. We don’t need to be intellectuals to have faith in God, but we shouldn’t be afraid of acquiring the ability to intellectually defend our faith. We shouldn’t be afraid to pick up a book, other than the one God has given to us, and take the time to read and study it. God instructs us to love Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength and all of our mind! Loving the Lord with all of our mind may involve getting our butts into a library, now and then. We can’t afford to be lazy stewards of the truth that God has given us. If we don’t take the time to learn how to contend earnestly for the faith, I fear that more and more people will be able to casually dismiss Christianity altogether, without ever having examined it with any depth.


Christians need a quick logic course designed just for them … And here it is! This small presentation is in no way complete; it is just an introduction to the basics, but it is geared to the arguments of religious matters.


Logic is the science of correct reasoning. It is a tool that can be used to determine the truth value of opinions.

When opinions conflict, they can result in an ‘argument’. This type of argument is not synonymous with a ‘quarrel’, although an examination of an argument can indeed lead to one.

The Structure of Argument

Every argument begins with a claim in the form of a proposition. A premise is an assertion that serves as a basis for an argument.

Examples of propositions: Frank is a Catholic. Susan is a member of Church X. Pastors can’t be trusted. The pews in my church are old and creaky.

Each proposition is either true or false, but logic analyzes how the truth of propositions is connected with the truth of other propositions.

An argument is a set of two or more propositions that are related to each other in a way that lends support for a conclusion to be drawn. The logical progression in thought that takes a thinker from proposition to conclusion, is called ‘inference’. “Frank is a Catholic,” “Susan is a member of Church X,” “Pastors can’t be trusted,” “The pews in my church are old and creaky,” is just a collection of unrelated propositions; they are not joined in a way where the truth or falsity of one would have any bearing on the truth or falsity on another and there is no inference.

We can construct a simple argument by taking one of the above propositions and supplying it with other supporting propositions and then analyze the relationships between the propositions in order to infer a conclusion.

1. Susan is a member of Church X.

2. All members of Church X tithe 10% of their income.

3. Therefore, Susan tithes 10% of her income.

When the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion, the inference taking place is called ‘deductive reasoning’.

Deductive inference can be obvious, for obvious reasons!

When the truth of the premises make the conclusion only conceivable or likely to be true, the inference taking place is called ‘inductive reasoning’. Inductive reasoning is considered logical when its premises present reasonable evidence or support for the truth of its conclusion.

This is why it is inappropriate for Christians to claim they can ‘prove’ that God exists. ‘Proving’ involves a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion, and outside of axiomatic and self-evidential truths, very little of value can be ‘proven’. But Christians can certainly claim that they have evidence and use inductive reasoning to support their conclusions.

A violation in the rules of logic results in a fallacy. The best way to not commit a fallacy is to know what one is. Here are some fallacies designed especially for you!


False Dilemma; Excluded Middle
Either the Disciples were liars, or Jesus rose from the dead.
One can either acknowledge the logic of science or be a Christian.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam
Argument from Ignorance
God can’t be proven not to exist, therefore He does exist.
God can’t be proven to exist, therefore He doesn’t exist.

Slippery Slope
If you vote Democrat, pretty soon the Liberals will be making the laws and the next thing you know, there will be a law that forbids you to pray before meals.
If you vote Republican, pretty soon the Christians will be making the laws and the next thing you know, they will be executing people for blasphemy.

Appeal to Consequences
You must believe in God, otherwise life would have no objective meaning.
Life has no objective meaning, therefore, there is no God.

Argumentum ad populum
Appeal to Popularity
85% of Americans believe in God, therefore, God must be real.
95% of scientists believe in evolution, therefore, it had to have taken place.

Argumentum ad hominem
Attacking the Person, not the Argument
You may argue that God doesn’t exist, but that’s only because you want to justify your immorality.
You may argue that God exists, but that’s only because you can’t deal with reality.

Argumentum ad verecundiam
Appeal to Authority
The end of the world will take place on Memorial Day. I read it in the Enquirer.
Arachaya S. has proven that Jesus is a myth based on the movement of the sun.

Anonymous/Fictitio us Authorities
Studies show that 72% of people who ascribe to atheism end up in prison.
They have proven that crucifixion didn’t take place in Rome until after 350 AD.

Petitio Principii
Begging the question
We know that God exists, since the Bible says God exists. What the Bible says must be true, since God wrote it and God never lies.
We know that man has to have evolved from an ancestor of ape, because evolution is the only scientific theory that explains our existence through natural causes. Science only recognizes natural causes for our existence, so evolution must be true.

Muslims believe in God and Christians believe in God. We shouldn’t argue because we both believe in God.
If God made all of us, then we are all His children and no good God would send His children to Hell.

If science was always right in its theories, evolution would be a fact. But science has been wrong before, and so evolution is false.
If God was real, then we could expect His followers to uphold His morals. But hypocrisy reigns and so God isn’t real.

Stay tuned for updates and more detailed analyses! In the meantime, look up logic sites online. Logic doesn’t have to be a drab, emotionless pursuit. It’s an exciting adventure that will help you to make your case for faith!

A good debate will carry both the promise of intimacy and the risk of your argument’s destruction. In order for your opponent to destroy your argument, he must first seek to understand it. In order for you to successfully rebut his counter-argument, you will have to make an attempt to grasp his line of reasoning. Personally, the prospect of being understood has always outweighed the risk of defeat for me. Here are some practical debate tips:

1) Never address your opponent as ‘Sir’, ‘Mr. Soandso’, ‘Mrs. Soandso’, ‘Dr. Whosoever’, or ‘Professor Noitall’, even if your opponent has professionally acquired the last two titles. It will give your audience the impression that your opponent has somehow earned your respect and that he is your superior. If your rival insists on calling you by your earned title or traditional formality, let him but don’t reciprocate. You can successfully conduct an entire debate without ever having to refer to the opposition by name. Embedding your opponent’s first name in every other sentence can be very condescending:

Well, Marvin, perhaps you are unable to comprehend the complexity of what I am demonstrating. You do realize, Marvin, that one plus one equals two?

Don’t be the first to resort to this nonsense, but if your adversary does, I suggest that you match his attitude, only for the sake of an even argument.

2) Refrain from using sarcasm in text-only debate forums. If the meaning of a statement depends on the tone in which it is read, you are taking the chance that it will be misinterpreted. I occasionally give in to my affinity for sarcasm and the results are never good! Even though my intentions are to display some good natured ribbing, they are frequently misconstrued as sincere hostility. For example, In the Morality & Meaning Debate, which took place recently on, I sarcastically blamed my opponent for causing discord when the conflict was very obviously caused by a fellow Christian. Overall, it is better to sacrifice humour and wit for clarity in serious discussion. Save your biting barbs for the less intelligent, name-calling type of foe who hasn’t the capacity to understand or carry on an intelligent conversation.

3) Stay focused and limit your discussion to the main argument. Every now and then, you will meet a hyper individual who hops around the discussion like a kangaroo with a hot foot. The debate will start off simple enough. He will ask one question or make one comment and you will return a paragraph explaining your position. He will then send you a 15 page rebuttal, filled with misconception about what it was that you said, and introduce a dozen new points of contention. He will expect you to return a 45 page counter-argument, addressing every point and misunderstanding, and will claim victory by default when you fail to spend the rest of your life replying to him. This type of person usually doesn’t know the difference between presenting an argument and being argumentative. If you are intent on showing such a person the error of his ways, you will have to constantly keep the original debate on track and ignore all of the flapping red herrings. Keep your presentation as short and concise as possible, because the more you write, the more he will misconstrue. Dissecting his argument into its basic syllogism for your analysis can be very effective because it will limit his ability to wiggle around. Be relentless and keep pressing home your point, even if it means repeating yourself.

4) End the debate with The Final Word. There are those who believe that whoever has the final word wins the debate. Obviously, this mindset could severely restrict one’s non-debating activities! You need not continue to beat a dead horse; just make sure it isn’t twitching and pronounce it dead. Say something to the effect of “I believe that we have exhausted all avenues of the subject at hand. I maintain my position that [insert position here] is correct and that you have failed to demonstrate how your position overcomes [insert his argument’s shortcomings here]”.

5) Realize that disagreement does not constitute refutation. I get the impression that many people think that their disagreement with another person’s argument disproves the argument. Unless your opponent can logically demonstrate where your argument fails, his disagreement remains an opinion. There is no shame in agreeing to disagree.

6) Realize that agreement does not constitute substantiating. Conversely, unless you can logically present your argument, agreement with your point of view is mere opinion.

7) Keep your integrity. It’s all right to be hard hitting, but it isn’t fair to sucker punch a potential rival. Don’t copy and paste private e-mails to debate forums or web sites where the author of the e-mail isn’t even present to defend his points against attack.

8) Always let a good opponent know that he or she is appreciated. Some people who engage in religious debate are sincerely interested in the truth. Most, atheists and theists alike, are not. When you find such a rarity, thank them for their participation and perhaps they will agree to debate with you again.”

7 thoughts on “The “Straw-man” syndrome and the state of Good Debate!”

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